Just as it took multiple talents to create Star Wars, it was multiple things that contributed to what changed with the special editions and prequels.
George Lucas deserves the lion’s share of credit for Star Wars. Without him, it simply doesn’t exist. There were numerous other talents that contributed greatly, but it was Lucas at the center.
I do not think he made the original Star Wars for 12-year-olds as he has stated. It was a fun movie for all ages. By the time we get to RotJ however, we see his ideas change regarding what Star Wars actually is with the arrival of the Ewoks.
The prequel trilogy can be fun for all ages too, but I can see it being made mainly for 12-year-olds as he previously stated. The special editions add that prequel type of humor to the Original Trilogy. What we end up with today is kind of like two versions of the entire saga. If you grew up on the unaltered versions, then the prequels probably didn’t fit your idea of what Star Wars is. You probably liked TFA and R1 more. But if you grew to love the special editions, then the prequels fit right in and it is TFA and R1 that feel foreign to you. And of course there are some that just love it all and a myriad of other combinations and preferences.
Lucas has said before that he went from fighting large corporations to make his movie, to actually becoming a large corporation himself. By the time he made the prequels, I don’t think he was a receptive to the same team effort style that was responsible for the original Star Wars. I am sure there had to be someone that asked why they computer animated clone troopers in AotC instead of just putting people in suits. I am not sure what the response was, but we see the results.
jar-jar type humor has no place in what I consider Star Wars to be, but I suppose after 20 years of the special editions and almost 20 years of the prequels, fans of that style are entrenched and here to stay. I am glad none of that is in TFA or R1, but who knows what the future holds. There is however something from the past that is missing, the Unaltered Original Trilogy. There is room in the Star Wars universe for everyone to like whatever they choose. All those who want the Unaltered Original Trilogy are asking for is a seat at the table.
I still appreciate and respect Lucas. The special editions and prequels didn’t change that one bit. My opinion of him did change slightly however with the suppression of the unaltered versions and the GOUT. Some of the things he said hurt. The Lucas who said those things and the Lucas who addressed congress regarding film preservation and how they are important pieces of history are most certainly not the same Lucas. That is why such preservation is so important. We can’t allow our cultural history to be rewritten.
George has done far more good than harm. If you love movies, then you owe Lucas a measure of gratitude. His attempt to erase the unaltered versions is unfortunate, mainly because I consider them a huge accomplishment and something to be increasingly proud of. Fortunately we have some good people out there fighting to preserve it for those who want it. Hopefully soon it will be available for the mainstream audiences to appreciate as well.